Family Immune Support

By Brandie Mitchell, RN, LMT, Integrative Nurse Coach

In your family’s quest for wellness, nothing feels like a setback more than getting sick.  Illness can also be an opportunity to slow down, rest, and nurture your body in ways that enhance your immune system function. Here are a few tools for your family’s wellness toolbox to keep them healthy this season.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C offers powerful support for your immune system. Our bodies cannot make or store this water-soluble vitamin, so it’s important to consume plenty of it every day.  The best food sources for Vitamin C are citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwi, berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green and red peppers, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and winter squash.  It’s not a bad idea to supplement with a powder or capsule during the winter months for added protection. Adults, your dose is anywhere from 1000- 4000 mg/day for prevention.  You can take as much Vitamin C as your body can handle.  If you need it, your body will assimilate it, and you’ll know if you’ve overdone it if you experience diarrhea.  Vitamin C works best as prevention but may also help with shortening the life of your cold or virus.  Use this formula for figuring your child’s vitamin C needs- 4000mg/150 x your child’s weight as a safe maintenance dose during the cold and flu season; increase as needed (until diarrhea) during an illness.  Watch out for consuming high amounts of sugar in fruit juices, which may actually weaken your immune system. It’s best to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables along with a supplement to meet your needs.

Medicinal Essential Oils

When it comes to immune support, therapeutic-grade essential oils are a favorite of mine.  Essential oils are akin to the ‘blood’ of the plant, carrying oxygen and nutrients to the plant’s cells.  Not only are their tiny molecules antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial, but they usually smell amazing too.  Essential Oils are wildly growing in popularity, especially amongst moms and dads looking for alternatives to support their healthy family.  I use both Young Living and DoTerra Essential Oils and have found them to be equally beneficial.  Both companies use a distillation process that preserves the therapeutic properties of the plants, as opposed to many oils you can find in stores that are simply aromatic and not necessarily therapeutic.  Young Living has a blend called Thieves, a combination of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary oils- all known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties.  You can apply the oil directly on the feet, which is absorbed transdermally (through the skin) to act in the bloodstream.  It is also safe to take this oil internally (not all oils are safe for consumption)- a drop in a cup of milk 3x/day often does the trick to kick a cold.  Diffusing essential oils is also a fabulous way to kill airborne bacteria lurking in your home or office. We keep one at the school for diffusing oils on a regular basis.  In general, I recommend avoiding topical application of essential oils for infants, and diluting them for children up to age 6 at a 0.25% dilution which is 1 drop of EO per 4 teaspoons of carrier oil.  Examples of carrier oils are olive oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed, or coconut oil.

Go with Garlic

Yes, it’s smelly, but that’s exactly why it’s so good for you!  Garlic contains allicin, which promotes antioxidant activity and functions as a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent.   To get the most out of your garlic, it’s best to chop or press it before using it.  If you’re going to cook with it, allow chopped garlic to sit 5-10 minutes before heating it.  This allows the enzymes that are released in the chopping process to work to make the allicin more available for your body’s immune system.

Take your probiotics

They’re in everything these days- even chocolate bars!  Probiotics are strands of beneficial bacteria that help to ‘fight the good fight’ in our gut.  The delicate balance of microflora in the gut is largely responsible for the state of our overall immune system.  When we are deficient in beneficial bacteria in our gut, we leave room for harmful bacteria to grow out of control- not a good thing.   Supplementing with a good quality probiotic is a good idea for everyone, but especially if you’ve recently taken antibiotics, if you eat a lot of refined foods, or if you have a stressful lifestyle.  In addition, try probiotic-rich foods like kombucha tea, all-natural saurkraut, kimchi, kefir, and plain greek yogurt with no added sugar.

Release stress

Speaking of stress- get it out of your body!  Chronic stress has a direct effect on the immune system, largely because a stress response in the body releases the hormone cortisol, known to weaken the immune system when circulating levels remain high.  So find what works for you- practice deep breathing daily, enjoy calming music, receive (or give!) a massage, get a good night’s sleep, practice gratitude daily, play every day, and laugh often.

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